Modern printing can be traced back to the fifteenth century when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Yet, the history of printing can be dated back to a far earlier time. The discovery of artifacts suggest that the first known instances of printing may actually be dated back to as early as 3000B.C.

Whichever date you focus on, we’re sure we can all agree that the world would look very different today if printing hadn’t been invented.

Far fewer people would be able to read, many languages would have been forgotten, news of historic events would never have been shared, and some of the greatest scientific discoveries would have arrived centuries late.

Today, printing is invaluable to the commercial world. In 2017, the global commercial printing industry generated about $785 billion in annual revenue.

Commercial printing has a variety of uses to suit different organizational needs. It allows your business to stand out from competitors by enabling you to create unique business resources, new products and marketing materials.

Due to its wide range of applications, there isn’t just one single type of commercial printing. Commercial printing can be used for printing on apparel and textile products, glass, metal, paper, or plastic.

As a result, you need to make sure you choose the best commercial printing option to suit your business requirements. When looking to invest in commercial printing, your business will have a choice of printing options.

The main different types of commercial printing are:

  • Offset Lithography
  • Digital Printing
  • Large Format Printing
  • LED UV Printing

In this article, we will explore these four different types of commercial printing to help you understand which printing style will best suit your business needs.

Offset lithography

Offset lithography is one of the most commonly used printing processes today and has a wide variety of uses. Also known as litho printing, offset lithography is often the preferred choice for larger print jobs due to its simple, cost-effective process.

Offset lithography works on the principle that oil and water don’t mix. Image information (art and text) is edged onto aluminum metal plates. Each plate is then loaded onto a plate cylinder which acts as a roller that will dampen the non-image area of each file with water and apply an oil-based ink to the image area. The inked area will then be transferred to a rubber cylinder known as a “blanket”. As the paper passes around the blanket, the image information will be transferred onto the paper. The process is called “offset” because the image is offset or transferred to another surface instead of being directly applied from the plates to the paper.

The advantages of offset lithography are the low cost and the rich print quality. This commercial printing technique is an ideal choice for larger print jobs as printing 100,000 copies won’t cost much more than printing 10,000 copies. 

Litho printing is also recognized as the most versatile commercial printing option as it can print on a larger variety of substrates. You can use offset lithography for wood, paper, plastic or even metal. In addition, offset lithography works on different paper weights and sizes. Therefore, you may want to opt for offset lithography if you are planning to print high volume quantities of print materials such as business cards, leaflets or letters.

Digital printing

In contrast to offset lithography, digital printing is ideal for businesses looking for short print runs or personalization. The process of digital printing will allow your organization to get creative with commercial print, making it the perfect choice for marketing materials.

Unlike traditional print methods like offset lithography, digital printing doesn’t require printing plates. Instead, digital printing presses print the image directly onto the media substrate. Advancements in digital print technology have resulted in a print quality that is comparative to offset printing.

Other advantages of using digital printing for commercial print jobs include: personalized, variable data printing, ability to print-on-demand, cost-effective short print runs, and fast turnarounds.

Digital printing machines can print on almost anything from thick cardstock, heavyweight paper and folding cartons to fabric, plastics and synthetic substrates. T-shirt printing is also a popular application for digital printing.

We recommend using the digital print method if you are planning to print various marketing resources or if you want to print personalized designs and short print runs. Items that can be printed using digital printing include labels, letters, newsletters, banners, point of sale items, menus and other marketing materials and products.

Large format printing

If you want to make a big impression with your marketing materials then large format printing will be your best choice of commercial print methods. One of main advantages of printing large format is, as suggested by the name, the ability to print large sized materials. Therefore, if you are looking to print large size materials, you will want to opt for large format printing over any other commercial printing technique. 

The printing process for large format printing is similar to the printing method used in digital printing. As the ink is directly applied to the product, large format printing is an ideal technique for full-color and high-quality images and photographs.

The common maximum width of most large format printers is 61″ while the length will often be determined by the length of the material being printed on. For banners and other roll-to-roll print substrates, the length can be virtually any length. 

These large print sizes make large format printing an ideal choice for larger marketing materials such as external banners, large signage, pop-up displays, billboards and other large scale marketing materials.

LED UV printing

Finally, another one of the main types of commercial printing is LED UV printing. This is a newer form of lithography printing technology that allows the ink to dry instantly to reduce ink absorption and maximize the final print color. If you want highly vibrant, eye-catching print materials, LED UV printing may be your preferred commercial print method.

Along with high color vibrancy, other benefits of LED UV printing include a faster turnaround compared to traditional lithography print methods, no ink markings or blemishes, lower power usage than traditional lithography methods, ability to print on a variety of materials and no need for spray powder coating.

Instead of setting the ink with a spray powder coat, the LED UV print technique uses UV light to cure the ink. This method of UV curing also helps to minimize the environmental impact of LED UV printing. The curing method used in LED UV printing uses less power than traditional print-drying technology and the automatic on/off functionality reduces standby consumption between print runs. 

LED UV printing is best used for high-quality sales and marketing materials where color virancy, quality and detailing really count. You may also want to use LED UV printing when you need your print materials in a short timeframe. Ideal uses for LED UV printing for your business may include luxury marketing materials such as catalogues, prospectuses, handbooks, lookbooks, magazines, posters, leaflets, and brochures.

To recap, the different types of commercial printing range from large format to LED UV printing, and have various applications, from personalization to marketing banner creation. Knowing the different types of commercial printing can help you choose the best hardware options for your company’s needs.